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About 33,000 dogs enter the Los Angeles shelter system each year and, if a new proposal by one of its commissioners is passed, those dogs will soon become vegan.
Los Angeles City Commissioner Roger Wolfson, with the support of activists and environmentalists including musician-turned-activist, Moby, and outspoken feminist lawyer, Lisa Bloom, hopes to bring the meat-free movement to Los Angeles shelter dogs, replacing traditional meat-based kibble diets with plant-based vegan diets instead.
“If we adopt this, it’s one more thing that proves to the world that Los Angeles really is the progressive capital,” Moby testified at a city board meeting in November.
The change, which commissioners could decide Tuesday, would make the city’s shelter system the first in the nation to feed its canine residents a vegan diet, according to its chief veterinarian, Jeremy Prupas – who vehemently opposes the action.
According to veterinarians consulted for a Washington Post report, feeding dogs only plants is less “progressive” and more “harmful and insane.”
While many pets thrive on vegan diets, city veterinarian, Dr. Jeremy Prupas said in a report to the commission that rescued and shelter dogs are often injured, undernourished, or have special needs that require their food to contain enough protein, calcium and other vitamins and minerals to help them heal and thrive. He also noted that a plant-based diet would not adequately support the needs of pregnant or lactating dogs.
In further opposition of the proposed diet change, Prupas said that the city’s current meat-based kibble diets cost the city $0.87/pound while a vegan diet from that same approved vendor would cost the city $3.87/pound of food.
Despite valid concerns over both cost and the health and welfare of its shelter dogs, supporters cite the environmental effects of supporting the meat industry. Producing the meat for traditional pet foods requires more land, water, and energy and pollutes more than plant-based food. And, creates as many as 64 million tons of greenhouse gases each year, about the equivalent of driving more than 12 million cars around for a year.
“We have to embrace the fact that the raising and killing of animals for food purposes must only be done if we have absolutely no other choice,” Commissioner Wolfson said. “This is about the long-term survival of every man, woman and child in this room, and all of the people in our lives.”
Dr. Lisa M. Freeman, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and a professor at Tufts University, told the New York Times that there were no long-term studies on the effects of veganism in dogs. Although she understands the ethical argument for avoiding meat, the veterinary nutritionist said that a balanced diet for dogs should include meat. She recommends feeding a dog a high-quality fish-based diet as an alternative.
PetMD says it is “inappropriate” to feed a pet a diet that ultimately forces them “to eat something that it isn’t designed to handle.” Dogs and cats can’t manufacture some of their own nutrients like humans can. Denying them meat can lead to everything from cardiomyopathy to fatty liver disease.
While a vast majority of pet owners find the proposal, frankly, absurd, supporters of the vegan for shelter dogs movement have had a solid presence and a loud voice at commission meetings.
What’s your opinion? Should shelter dogs be fed vegan diets? Weigh in with a comment below!